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Friday, October 9, 2009

Author Interview with Michelle Moran

I had an amazing opportunity to talk with Michelle Moran - author of Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen, and Cleopatra's Daughter. She has been so easy to work with and is very enthusiastic about her work and communicating with bloggers and readers. I asked her some questions about Cleopatra's Daughter as well as her upcoming book, Masks of the Revolution.

In the novel, Selene works with Vitruvius to plan and help build some of the great buildings that are still standing today in Rome. Was she known to be interested in architecture and really work with this amazing architect?

There is evidence from her time in Mauretania that Selene was very interested in architecture, particularly Greek architecture. While we will never know if she studied with Vitruvius, it is almost certain that she would have met him and learned – directly or indirectly – from his building in Rome.

The way that Alexander and Selene were treated by Octavian was different from the way he had treated other royalty from nations that had been conquered (such as the Gauls). Why were they treated differently or with more respect than these other people?

How you were treated as a captured enemy of Rome depended on several things: your race, your parentage, and often your age. If Selene and her brother had been the children of a “barbaric” Gaul, they would have been either killed or enslaved, like Vercingetorix, the King of the Gauls. However, because Alexander and Selene were the children of a highly respected Roman citizen and an Egyptian Queen, they were taken to Rome and educated with Octavian’s heirs. It wasn’t unheard of for Romans to take the children of conquered kings and raise them as Roman citizens. However, this only occurred in the case of respected enemies.

Why did Octavia, the former wife of Mark Antony, take in his children with Cleopatra and treat them like they were her own children?

I think it had to do with personality. Contrary to her portrayal in HBO’s Rome Series, the real Octavia was a very quiet, kind, compassionate woman. She was raised in an extremely conservative household where she would have been taught to smile and accept the bitterness of loss, whether that loss pertained to battles or husbands. Marc Antony was her second husband. It was a political alliance, and probably not a love match (although we’ll never know). His betrayal may not have been as bitter to her as we might imagine, given his reputation and given the fact that she probably never lost her heart to him. However, the presence of Marc Antony’s “bastard” children (I put bastard in quotes, since he considered himself married to Cleopatra), would have caused most women at the time acute embarrassment. It says a great deal about Octavia’s compassionate nature that she not only raised them, but from all accounts seemed to have treated them like her own children.

In the novel there are several major trials that take place regarding situations between slaves and masters. Was this a common occurrence in the Roman world, where 1/3 of the population was enslaved? Why was there such a high slave population?

I’m not sure slave trials were common place, but they certainly happened frequently enough to be remarked upon and recorded. The reason the slave population was so large was twofold: the economy was based on slave labor, and human trade was incredibly lucrative. The Romans were very good at conquest and capture. And the slave holders benefitted both economically and socially from owning other human beings.

You took a trip to many of the places that Selene encountered during her life in Rome. Did you have a favorite place and why?

Oh – that’s a hard question! I think my favorite place was probably the Tabularium, where the Romans kept their records. It was cold and dark and felt very much like stepping back in time to 30 BC.

Your next novel, Masks of the Revolution, takes us to the French Revolution and the life of Madame Tussaud. How difficult was it to leave Egypt behind and move to France? What inspired this new novel?

It is a huge leap in time. But adjusting to a new period hasn’t been very difficult, probably because my husband and I spend so much time in France, and the 18th century has always fascinated me, which means I’ve been reading about it and discussing it with others for many years. My decision to write on Madame Tussaud came from a visit to – where else?! – her wax museum in London. This was many years ago, and I can still clearly remember seeing the wax figure of a young Tussaud holding up a lantern in Madeleine Cemetery, looking through the severed heads of her guillotined friends. I never forgot that image. It stayed with me for years until finally I decided I wanted to know more about her life. What was she doing in the cemetery? Why was she looking through the severed heads? Whose heads were they? Did she know those people? When I learned what she’d been through – who she’d met, where she’d gone, and what she’d seen during the French Revolution – I decided I had to tell her story.

Thank you so much Michelle for the time you took to answer these questions. They are some phenomonal answers and helped understanding immensely. I have truly enjoyed working with you and can't wait for the next book.

Michelle Moran was born in the San Fernando Valley, CA. She took an interest in writing from an early age, purchasing Writer's Market and submitting her stories and novellas to publishers from the time she was twelve. When she was accepted into Pomona College she took as many classes as possible in British Literature, particularly Milton, Chaucer, and the Bard. Not surprisingly, she majored in English while she was there. Following a summer in Israel where she worked as a volunteer archaeologist, she earned an MA from the Claremont Graduate University.  Michelle has traveled around the world, from Zimbabwe to India, and her experiences at archaeological sites were what inspired her to write historical fiction.

You can visit Michelle at her website for additional information about her and her books.

Copyright © 2009-2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Wonderful,wonderful interview! Michelle is such a fantastic and interesting author. I can't wait to read her next novel-I'm fascinated by Tussaud and- of course the French Revolution! Thanks:)

  2. Moran's next novel set during the French Revolution sounds great! I love reading about that time period. Thanks for the interview :)

  3. Great interview. I loved reading it. :)

  4. Great interview! I loved The Heretic Queen and I can't wait to read Cleopatra's Daughter. Her new book sounds fantastic too.


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